Triggers and trauma are real phenomena. More people than we can ever imagine are living their lives like silent warriors, struggling in silence and fighting through the chaos of past, or current, pain. Meanwhile, our modern day society offers too few solutions, and too few places of refuge. For many there is no rest.
Military families, police and fire personnel, doctors and nurses, survivors of incomprehensible past abuses, neglect, and abandonment are just some of the silent warriors our society should embrace, support, and cherish. Survivors of attacks, accidents, and natural disasters are also among the warriors, and there are many others, like the unsung heroes who’ve been on the receiving end of a lot of misplaced wrath during the pandemic. To take an honest, agenda-free look at the situation of human trauma and its consequences is to cut deeply into the fabric of our very humanity. While many agencies exist to provide services, most are underfunded, short-staffed, and in general, overwhelmed. Few of us have the inner awareness to really consider those living with trauma or to engage in anything resembling compassionate, caring support. Full disclosure, even I don’t consider the reality of the situation nearly as much as I should.
It’s been said that a thriving community is only as strong as the compassion and care the members have for each other. This is a heavy statement that implicates most of us. Should we feel guilty or embarrassed for our lack of awareness? No. However, we should stop and take a deeper look. Then, we should be moved into action, whether that means volunteering in some capacity, donating to underfunded organizations already supporting these warriors, or simply being kinder, more patient, and considerate. Not all people are having a great day, or life, at the moment we encounter them.
In contrast, our society has fallen into a model I call “trigger culture” where everyone is a little quick to take offense to the most benign events. Someone takes it personally that they don’t get the right amount of whipped topping on their latte, or calls another out for not allowing “their truth” to be told. Trigger culture has nothing to do with people dealing with real trauma. It’s just what happens when people seek the quickest “solution” to their current angst.
Trigger culture comes at a price. It leads to an inflexibility that rejects people for being human. For example: Let’s say I mistakenly, or on bad advice, make a statement or joke that gets called out. Someone responds that they feel “triggered” or behaves negatively. Then, I do the right thing and sincerely apologize for offending the “triggered” person. That should be that. Except more often than not you see people having knee-jerk reactions to even the best intentions. Anything “questionable” I have ever done is magnified and any good I’ve done is disregarded. While I always support calling out and holding accountable predators and criminals, I can’t support the insanity of trying to destroy another person because they overreacted to a small offense or behaved badly towards another. My question is this: in what circumstance will a sincere apology not suffice?
In my humble opinion, and from my limited perspective on the human condition, it seems like honesty, transparency, and authenticity would help us to focus our efforts and energy on helping others thrive as they work through past trauma and manage their very real and painful triggers, while at the same time calling out the insanity of “trigger culture” and its cousin “cancel culture.” Then again, this is the same society that fell for the “Pet Rock.” Well, one can hope.
If you or someone you know is in need of help, call or text 988 or the National suicide hotline at: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Help is just a phone call or text away.